“If you hear the sound of thunder, then you are in danger from LIGHTNING”
“If you hear the sound of thunder, then you are in danger from LIGHTNING”
Depeche Mode Album Review 2016
Miraculous. This band’s debut album was not even recorded in such a short amount of time. This is unheard of from a band of their caliber and especially when you take into account this is an electronic band that meticulously assemble their music like an elaborate sonic collage.
Over some mere weeks the songs were played and recorded in quite an ‘old fashion’ way using only old antiquated equipment including vintage microphones, amplifiers and tapes. The final result is classic. Raw vocals with just plate reverb on harmonies accompanied by saloon style sequenced piano rolls and honky tonk jangling – all under pinned by deep blue piano bass lines including compulsory jazz flurry’s and tangents. Gone are the synthesizer and samplers for the most part. The electronic atmospheres on this record are supplied by what can only be described as a ‘Somebody’ style slow backward tape of weird and wonderful sounds and effects.
In true unique Dépêche Mode styling’s the recordings are not as straight forward as first thought. All songs were recorded in one take during which microphones were placed in, on and around the amplifiers and pianos in various rooms and halls to give that extra ‘je ne ce qua’. Guitars play along with amp valve buzzing while piano strings loose from electro workouts flop and twang about – all full up in the mix. The occasional Moog and Theremin make the ubiquitous appearance as does an effected harmonica filtered to haunting result. The slowest banjo you will ever hear plus gated radio interference magnify Martins 3am rasp vocal on ‘And I Miss You More (Than If I Ever Met You)’ which is destined to be a future Depeche Mode staple. Classic bashing of objects, 1983 style, make up the rhythms on the couple of upbeat tracks and a hob-nail-boot on loose floorboards runs through most on here, all sounding like they were fun to play and record, there is even tin coffee mugs on prison bars if I am not mistaken. Plenty of rolling toms and ping pong balls cut in and out of the mix, abrupt starts and false endings as over dubs and under rehearsed live mixing bring a truly human element to a genuinely heartfelt piece of work. ‘Radio Therapy’-esq, original in all but genre.
Any of these elements the band could have sampled and looped and given us one of the finest Depeche Mode albums to date, instead they have given us one of the finest albums to date.
Blues guitar is the prominent feature of this record. All blue, and all the shades, and all the guitars from the cusp of electronics with amps held together by just dust’n’rust. And the songs of course, as diverse as always, from Dave’s confessional soul searching thirteenth step philosophy to Martins parables of biblical epic proportion – even when he is just musing on the ebb and flow of rivers (or whisky, or groins), one can never be quite sure with Mr. Gore. The dexterity and pure joy of word play has not been this consummative since the quest for ‘The Meaning of Love’ and ‘A Photograph of You’ in 1982 only now the subject matter, as well as the melodies, are meatier and accompanied by a rich sauce of wry knowing that only comes from living on a worldwide stage. It’s ‘Construction Time Again’ again as lyrics are spat, visceral, combining the poetry of ‘Walking in My Shoes’ with the whistle blowing of ‘Shame’, propagating modern parables so impartial the whole world should be embarrassed to look children in the eyes. Martin Needs a Maid.
Anthemic rhetoric that will turn stadium gigs into rally’s and turn audiences into humanitarians, this is compelling stuff.
Out of your head and on to your feet, back to the noise. For the completion of the ‘album’ tapes of various performances and Jazz Funerals were played through an affected PA System with live mixing of levels, EQ and other simple desk manipulation. This ‘all hands on desk’ mix rounded off their recording sessions and the sweat on the knobs and perspiration in the performance right until the end can be heard and felt in this record like no other recording I have heard since British band Blind Faith or the late and great Oscar Peterson. Not bad for any band from any district in any space and time, and this is Depeche Mode…
This is ‘Alpha’, with ‘Omega’ to follow later this year in what is now clearly the end of an era, & a new beginning. This is a new republic with the constitution rewrote for the twenty first century, the Ten Commandments revised after two thousand years of trial and error. This album is hot, melting. It’s languid, and precisely so. Cicada prevail and twilightz perpetual as DM deliver on many of their previous promises… Consequently I’ve a tendency to be satisfied, which normally is an insurmountable task.
This was a time of true beauty, magic and enchantment. In the centre of all this wondrous beauty, magic and enchantment there was a young boy. Pretty young prince, the Kings favourite child. The boy stood in awe at his surroundings, his first time out from within the castle walls. He was quite taken aback. Holding his breath and trying to speak at the same time, but he would never find the words to describe. Eyes wide but they too would never be able to register all the beauty that surrounded him at that moment.
This was a time of true beauty, magic and enchantment. There was no notion of time. Days came and went. You woke up after being fully rested and got on with another day filled with wonderful sights to be seen, conversations to be had and extra ordinary sounds to be heard. You ate when hungry and slept when tired, always with a smile on your lips, never any reason to lose it.
This was a time of true beauty, magic and enchantment. Things were alive then that normally are quite still. Everything was different compared to today. The colour of the sky, the sweet candy floss smell in the air, forests with leaves but no trees, brisk little streams that flow above the ground, rocks that swallowed themselves were constantly appearing here and there then vanishing as quickly, animals of peculiar colours like pinky orange or bluish brown with extra legs or winged bears and the transparent wistful little rainbow birds that filled the sky all possessed a silver streak of life, goodness and happiness. All quite quite different to the strange things we have in our lives today.
The pretty young prince, even more gorgeous now that all this beauty is reflected in his eyes, sets out to explore his new world like any other child in a strange new place. Animals and flowers watch curiously as the boy gently glides over the fragile emerald grass to his healthy steed. A tall proud horse, which like the young prince has skin of silvery steel. When he mounts they look as one, a complete chromed conquer prepared to battle any enemy, foe or beast, well that is if there were any, and then in these times and this place if nasty’s did exist, they would probably be friendly, polite and courteous. This was a time of true beauty, magic and enchantment.
The silver mirrored prince naked to the world glistening all over under the platinum sun rides off over the sparkling landscape, the sword by his side looks like it is part of him as he gleams in the warm morning sun light off on the adventure of a lifetime. As he gallops past, the grass sparks green snaps and leaf trees shimmer like soft curtains, flowers pop in clouds of coloured powder and the clouds themselves like collections of bubbles breath in and out, expanding and collapsing casting dappled spectral coloured light on the hills and meadows ahead. This was a time of true beauty, magic and enchantment.
A moment is all that has passed before our brave young bullet is shadowed by an enormous hill, not much different than the one he has just rode down from except on the top of this hill stands a most magnificent castle. A castle made entirely of glass as opposed to the metal one he was used to. The enormity of this castle constructed out of glass would even today be a miracle to behold, and for our young prince on his first time out it was truly the highlight of his day so far.
As he ventured up the steep hill and closer to the castle he noticed things were becoming more and more glass like. The path was slippery as his chromed horses hoofs clacked and slid on the shiny transparent surface. He carefully climbed down off his horse. He was unsure where the path started because it was clear glass and he could see further down than where his horse was standing. The horse neighed and gave a little shake of his head obviously unimpressed at the prospect of walking on a clear glass path. He edged off the path and on to the grass so he could be sure of where he stood but the grass was glass too. ‘Glass grass’ he thought to himself and smiled out loud. They walked along the path of glass grass through the garden of sculpted glass bushes blown by the breeze into shapes of giant leaves and feathers, past glass statues onto the glass drawbridge that spanned the glass mote. ‘I wonder if they have crocodiles’ he thought to himself and imagined a glass crocodile and a mouthful of glass teeth and he smiled aloud again, second time today, not that anybody is counting though. On he went through the castle admiring the pictures and furniture in the rooms above, they seemed suspended in the air for at least forty two stories above, ‘that’s no tall tale I tell you’, he whispered followed by the third loud smile of the day.
Our intrepid little adventurer ventured on until he came across an opening in the centre of the castle twenty flights up with twenty rooms deep on all sides. In the centre of the opening a clear pond, in the centre of the pond, just like a fountain, stood the most beautiful girl he had ever seen. She though, as he, was not what we are use to. She had no recognisable eyes nor mouth, nose, ears or fingers as we know them for she was made entirely from water. Her hair rippled and shone all the way down her smooth clear back coming short of her perfectly rounded and down her long legs the boy gazed to her feet which hovered just inches above the still water. When she would stop moving she would start to spill and drops would fall from her. He followed one ripple from beneath her radiate out to where he stood. She was flowing, but this beautiful most perfect young princess could not stay still or she would indeed collapse like an over laden cloud onto the floor in a puddle so she had to remain constantly moving and swaying.
Totally enraptured in her now was he. The young prince glided across the glass floor over the shallow pond and straight to the princess’s face where his mouth met hers. He kissed her. She kissed him, soft and only for a moment, but in that brief moment they both knew everything about everything. He could see his reflection in her glassy eyes and in his chrome half opened eyes she gazed at her reflection until the moment passed. But she had stood still for that precious moment, fleetingly she had remained stagnant. Into his arms, onto his cheek, his shoulder, his chest she collapsed and spilled. All over our young prince. He fell to and through the glass floor and on through the twenty more beneath until he came to rest on the solid ground far below only to have the contents of the pond pour over and rust him immediately to the spot where he lay destroyed, bruised and dented and still.
They were gone, the two of them, both together gone, but the world remained on and on and still does, though different it may be.
‘Jumping off the table is dangerous’ said Mom. One day I jumped off and went through a vortex. I did not land on the ground, I just kept on floating.
Everything was blue and swirling, I was in another dimension. I could see my house and Mom on the other side. It was like watching a giant television, a giant television in the shape of a great big bubble and I was on the inside.
I called out to Mom but she could not hear me. I looked for something to wave or shake or bang to try and get her attention. There was nothing here. Nothing except air. Nothing except air and tiny shiny strings. Loads of tiny shiny strings like spider webs going from here to there.
I pulled on the strings trying get moms attention. As I shook the crooked and pointy strings she smiled. I pulled and tugged more and as they straightened they gently fell and enveloped her head like a big floppy hat. She grinned and sighed. She could feel the good vibrations I was sending out across the universes’.
I pulled on all the other jagged and sharp strings. They wobbled then straightened and draped over everyone I knew, and then some. Everyone was smiling and feeling like they had just been hugged. As I reached out to make everyone happy the bubble I was in became smaller and smaller until suddenly I just materialised on the rug at home beside mom and the coffee table.
Mom was happy to see me and gave me the biggest hug ever and whispered in my ear, ‘be careful love, jumping off the table is dangerous’. Mom is always right.
And a large green bear, deep dark green like an empty red wine bottle, lurched through the forest in search of other green bears. He picked at an old twig quietly humming to himself, humming and la la-ing a melody half remembered but mainly made up and as quickly forgot. He was not going anywhere in particular, just rambling this way and that, away from here mostly.
The day was pleasant, a could of done with a jumper on sort of day but he was a bear so he did not need one though if he had a button on his collar he might have opened it. Up the hill he tread, through the trees and along the river bank, crossing whenever there was a chance, across felled trees, stepping stones or narrow stretches he could bound over, humming his own personal soundtrack as he went. Sometimes his hum would be just that, a quiet hum, other times it was louder, considerably louder, especially as he jumped and landed, then it became a theme tune announcing his arrival, heeerrrre’s… ‘A Large Green Bear’. The last log he crossed on had twisted beneath his weight and startled him somewhat. As he sang a stern refrain of warnings and of spiteful logs, suddenly from behind a prickly bush appeared a large orange goat. ‘Oh!’ slightly startled, slightly embarrassed and blushing the big green bear said a mumbled ‘hello goat’. The goat was glad to hear somebody singing and generally pleased to have a visitor close to his spot in the forest here beside the river and so close his favourite bush.
‘Hi bear’ he popped, as his black rectangles scanned the great lump of a green bear from his bulging yellow eyes. ‘Would you like some of my leaves, they are the best in these here parts, this bush has magical qualities’ rapped the goat gleefully, ‘I used to be plain old grey colour but this bush has turned me this super shade of Osage Orange, I am hoping for Sun Burst with the more I eat.’ ‘I am a large green bear and I am happy to be green, and a bear, I would just like to meet some other green bears to see if I like them too’ explained the large green bear, ‘have you seen any goat?’
‘I have never seen a green bear before and that is a certainty as a green bear is something I would definitely remember, not every day you see a large green bear, no, not ever… although I might have heard one’ goat pondered loudly. ‘I have heard music like that which you do hummed and sung on occasion from up up and beyond around the river bend and across the forest plateaux. Music not dissimilar to yours for sure and only recently too, around dusk, in twilight on the horizon silhouettes move through the trees, I used to think they were gigantic bees, but they could be bears, would make more sense if they were bears rather than huge bees.’
This story of possible sightings and heard songs aroused a curiosity in the large green bear that he had never before experienced. He giddily shuffled and scampered of up the hill, almost forgetting to thank goat, ‘cheers and cheerio goat’ he called over his shoulder as he bound through the trees and along the river bank, crossing willy-nilly da-da pow-powing his own personal theme tune of here he is, here he comes, here I am, I am, I am thee, Large Green Bear…
Through a break in the trees bear could see the bend in the river just up ahead. He quickened his pace. He breathe heavier, deep in through his nose and a long blow out his pouted mouth. Just an occasional word from his constant song would come out between breaths, ‘green… bear… here… near the end… start…a new beginning… singing all the while… I am a bear… nearly there now…’, and so on and so forth.
Suddenly from behind a great cloud of bright pine needles stumbled an upright blue wolf holding a large red basin between his paws. ‘Ah bear’ he exclaimed, ‘so nice to see you, I think, are you friendly, might you cause me harm?’ ‘I could ask the same’ replied bear now slightly bewildered because he knew for a fact wolves can be dangerous and they normally are not blue but most of all he was interested by what was in the red basin, so he asked. ‘I am delighted to share my basin secrets with you bear if you share a secret with me’. ‘Secrets are not a good thing to have’ murmured bear afraid of upsetting the wild blue wolf because he knew for fact that wolves can be dangerous. ‘Poppycock’ declared the wolf, ‘my secret is I am blue and it is a secret, I know you can see I am blue but how do you know I know I am blue and it does not bother me at all, how about you bear?’ ‘I am green, I am a bear, I do not know if there are other green bears and that may not be a secret but it is special knowledge I have only recently become aware of and it is important to me’ blurted bear. ‘Precisely, I am blue and I am glad for you to know it and thank you for sharing something important with me, your alright, now come check out the contents of my bowl’ and with a lunge forward and an over reaching stretch of his paws the wolf shoved the big red basin right under the large green bears nose. WHHHOOOWWW’ yelped bear and tears ran out of his nose and his eyes snotted up for the smell was wild wild wild. ‘Now I don’t want to know but I need to know so I can avoid it in the future, what a crazy crazy wild and stinking thing is that and how and where and most of all why, why would you have a basin full of such a pungent mess?’. Wolf just smiled and softly replied ‘you asked’, he turned on his upright back blue paws and mooched off behind the luminous pines. Bear knew wolves were dangerous but now he knew for sure and knew too that danger has many different shapes, colours and smells. Off he fumbled in a gruff trying to get as much fresh air in through his stinging poisoned red nose as possible ‘nasty mean blue wolf, why I aughta’.
The afternoon was pleasant. The sky was mainly clear blue with just an odd wisp of ice cream or Herbie like cloud. Birds were singing, the river gurgling and the leaves on the branches of the trees flapped in the gentle breeze. Bear had been walking all morning and now he was a little tired and hungry. The incident with the red basin of bad smelling things has almost changed his mood but he was a clever green bear and knew to be strong and not let blue wolves and bad smelling things and the like upset him. He picked up his chest, his chin, stuck his nose in the fresh air and marched on up the hill, through the trees and along the river bank, humming songs about food now with hunger on his mind. ‘Broccoli, eat your greens, especially broccoli, wise words from your elders, hum hum, chirpy chirpy cheep chip, chippeys chips please a hummm, mmmh’. Suddenly, as if by magic, just when he wanted it most, a falafel stall appeared. It was not on the other side of the rock or around the next bend or behind a tree, no, it just appeared, magic, lovely delicious falafel.
The unusual appearance of a falafel stall beside a river on the side of a hill in the middle of the forest was not the strange part either as the stall owner was an ostrich on roller skates & with two heads. He was candy stripped. From heads to wheels he had red and white twisted stripes running down and around his long slender necks through his girth of feather and on down and around and around his long gangly legs, even his wheels were alternate red and white. When he spoke the more red of his heads spoke first and the second mostly white head spoke secondly, every other word. Bear got quite dizzy after a while watching red beak white beak red beak white beak and so on as he spoke. He also spoke with hiccups, and a jolt each other word, his legs would lock together at the knee as if he was bursting to go to the toilet. Bear was too hungry to notice any of these peculiarities and just scanned his eyes over the selection of juicy food on offer, now trying not to look at barber shop quintet ostrich red beak white beak. Bear was stern in his request for food from ostrich, he spoke clearly and directly and to the point as he did not want to be drawn into the bird’s bizarre appearance. Bear did not mind the two heads, stripes, hiccups or roller skates as he himself was a green bear, but it was the bizarre sudden appearance of the ostrich and food stall that he was trying not to become involved with as magic confused him and today he was on a mission and could not be distracted.
‘One large falafel and a bottle of water please ostrich, and be quick as I have some where important to be before dusk’. ‘BEFORE dusk YOU say, BUT that IS hours AWAY yet, HOW far HAVE you TO travel?’ hiccupped ostrich. Even that short sentence was enough to make a large hungry green bear dizzy. ‘I am on a mission to find some green bears in the tree line on the ridge of the mountain, I must be there before it gets dark.’ BEWARE of THE super HUGE bees IN the TREES along THE ridge OF the MOUNTAIN, they COME out JUST before DARK every EVENING’.’Bees? Are you sure they are not bears?’ ‘I know A bee FROM a BEAR’ clacked ostrich. ‘But you are certain?’ bear enquired more disappointingly than quizzically. ‘CERTAIN I KNOW the DIFFERENCE between A bee AND a BEAR, but I have NEVER been IN the TREES on THE ridge OF the MOUNTAIN at DUSK so I can NOT be SURE if THEY in FACT are BEES or BEARS, they SURE sound LIKE bees’ exclaimed the dizzying bird heads. This was indeed disappointing for bear to hear, but he remembered his theme tune exclaiming his greenness and hummed a phrase for ostrich to make a comparison. ‘DEFINITELY bees, SOUNDS just ABOUT right, THAT is THEIR exact NOIZE’ clack clacked the strobbing beaks. Brilliant thought bear, that is the sound of a humming green bear, I am on the right path, and to avoid more confusion he did not let on to ostrich that bees and green bear song are similar, he just thanked him for his time and paid for his lunch with a six percent tip and went on his merry way all the more so now he had a full tummy and hope in his heart of finding some large green bears.
‘I am a large green bear, I am on a mission, no more wishin’, I am taking action, gonna find out real soon, if I am the only large green bear aroun’… or not.’
Bear took some time out after lunch to consider ‘is the Pope Catholic?’ then he was on his way, skipping and singing full of the joys of life. He stopped occasionally to smell the wild flowers, he hugged a tree or two, stopped to watch clouds form then dissolve and every now and again he would throw a stick in the river just to see if he could race it but of course he was going up hill to its source and it: off in a hurry down the mountains and hills, through the valleys and across the plains off to the ocean to evaporate and become clouds and start all over again as rain on the mountain peaks. Exhausting thought bear, I am glad I am a bear, ‘bye water, see you next time round’. Skipping and ducking, spinning and leaping as if he was a UFO hiding from curious on lookers. Off and on up the hill through the woods along the river bank crossing more often as the river narrows to a stream and he sang along now to its new rapid flowing tempo. He could hear animal skin drums and horns in its sloops and falls and spills over rocks and through felled branches. He was just starting to recall in his song all the events of the day so far when suddenly a ball of water zoomed up from the stream and flew toward him. It was massive. It was nearly as big as himself. It stopped right in front of him, shimmering. A full ball of water just hung there, slightly wobbling, distorting the forest behind and reflecting the bear in front like a peculiar see through distorted mirror.
‘WOW. What is are you am I seeing for real?’ He could not get the words out, or at least the right words, or at least in the right order. Wobble wobble splash shake went the ball, then another little shimmer sort of shake all prism soaked and reflective. ‘Yea, you’re trying to talk to me right? You want to play?’ and with that the ball spun around and off up up into the trees then back down, gave a little shake like an excited dog wagging his tail before shooting off up along the stream. ‘Oh I’m gonna catch you called bear, delighted to be playing and it did not matter that is was a ball of water with which he was cavorting. He ran and ran leaping up to grab the water to tickle it but each time his great big paws just went straight through splashing himself all over head to belly to big bear paw toe. This went on for some time and the ball of water never tired or reduced in size even with all the splashing and spilling. Eventually bear collapsed in a great laughing heap and the ball came to rest on his big furry green stomach. It wobbled in convulsions seemingly laughing too then exploded and refreshed bear in a way he never imagined possible. What a day I am having, this is some adventure thought bear as he picked his big soggy green ass off the ground. ‘Hay water sphere, see you ‘’round’’ he shouted with glee, delighted at his own little joke.
The large green bear ambled on ward and so too did the day. Doing all that a day does takes some considerable time and today was no different, almost the whole day had been taken up doing day time things. The day was almost spent and a giddy nervous kaleidoscope of butterflies swarmed the large green bears belly to the extent he believed at any moment now they would fly up his throat and out his mouth. The thought of this extreme effervescent eruption mad him all the more giddy and excited. He sang his song, hummed and shouted, ‘I am a large green bear and I am off to a large green bear party at sunset’. Up along the river, now just a rapid twisting stream through odd rocks and hollow trunks whistling on its way.
Through the forest, now beginning to clear and revealing the sky in greater expanse, the large green bear plod along head upright staring straight up, he loved the woods but the sky was his next best friend. Already there were stars even though the sky was still powered baby blue. Purple and orange and on fire the clouds gently make way for the nights illuminated illustrations of ancient tales, crabs, rams, mythological Greek hunters and Ursa Major of course, bear especially loved staring at this constellation, especially through Aurora Borealis, he was certain this is where all his ancestors now reside, blissful in glowing magnificence.
Dusk. The last sliver of sun like an electrocardiography runs the length of the mount ridge wider than any celestial sphere, all liquid gold and shrinking to single web strand blinding bright simply implodes and suddenly silence. Cicada and crickets in the distance, their chatter chatter adding depth to the unseen in the darkness. Cloud shifts, moon lifts and all is bright again, eyes adjust and things are not as dark as one first thought. There is a commotion breaking the silence somewhere off not too distant, a hussle, a cheer, a party atmosphere. Large green bear leaps and bounds in the direction hopeful to find, to find, SURPRISE!
What is it? What is this? Why I never. Astonished. The large green bear had indeed arrived on the ridge among the trees at dusk and found a gathering, not of huge bees, not of large green bears either, but of friends. Goat, Wolf, Ostrich, Sphere all gathered here to welcome the large green bear. ‘We all enjoyed meeting you today and we all wanted to meet you again, we knew you would be here so we came along too, friends?’ They held out their hands and danced in circles singing together and in turn ‘I am a large green bear, goat, wolf, ostrich, sphere, green, orange, blue, candy STRIPPED, translucent prism soaked – friend!